Anna Pospieszynska met with Polish actor Dawid Ogrodnik, who stars in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida and the inspiring Life Feels Good by Maciej Pieprzyca, both of which are screening as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
Irish audiences will have a chance to dive into two beautifully crafted stories, which are great examples of the “journey” cinema, so intensely focused on self-discovery and pursuit of a character’s own identity. So lets start from the beginning and your journey into acting.
My road has led me to confrontation with myself and defining what I want and how I can get there. I realised I had to stake everything on one card to reach my goals. Undoubtedly, it was a very difficult decision to make, particularly if you are 12 years old. Nevertheless, there was that nagging feeling of something awaiting me and I did need to see it. So I sold everything I owned and left thome to realize my dreams. There was definitely a lot of luck involved as I met many really good people on my journey, first in music and then at acting school. As a result of my decisions, I am here. The funny thing is that even now my intuition tells me there is more for me to discover so I needed to keep moving ahead.
Every journey might make you weary. Could you count on an emotional boost to push you forward?
I think each project I got involved in drove me significantly forward. Definitely one of the first key people I met was the director Leszek Dawid with whom I worked on I am the God (Jestem Bogiem). Thanks to him I learned to be honest with the camera and that to pretend emotions is your worst enemy. You have to really feel it regardless of how many times you have played it. Never try to ‘rewind’ feelings, as you would lose your realness. Life Feels Good, with Maciej Pieprzyca, was the biggest challenge of my life and taught me a lot about humility and helped me see an actor’s work from a different perspective. Suddenly you dedicate your whole life to one project and it becomes your objective.
You have been presented as an actor who fishes for roles of the outsider, which places you in the great company of Dustin Hoffman, Johnny Depp or Christian Bale. At the same time it requires a lot of effort, time and energy. What makes them so appealing?
It is both challenging and inspirational. After some point you realize that the brain acts as an extremely absorbent sponge. It enables you to readjust and engage with a huge variety of elements and particulars, which brings you eventually to the stage of metamorphosing into a character you are to play. And this is what fascinates me in this job. On the one hand it creates a comfort zone as you are creating a persona you have nothing in common with in real life. On the other, there is a danger of the pastiche and grotesque sneaking into your work if you do not do it right. It is a risk you need to take but you need to get ready and be responsible for all pros and cons that go with it.
Looking at your character in Ida, I see his symbolic weight that enriches the life of Anna, the female protagonist. Like metaphysical doors, she has to enter through them to continue her path to self-discovery and change. How did getting involved in this movie transform your life?
The script was one of the reasons why I decided to take part in it. Then there was my love of the saxophone and music. As the movie takes place in the ’60s, it was a very special time for Jazz, especially on the Polish scene. The director, Pawel Pawlikowski, wanted the soundtrack to reflect the movie’s ambience, which just added extra value to the project. In regards to my character, there was nothing extreme about him. However, what mesmerized me was the inner world he shared with the Anna, expressed by gestures, tunes and a desire to find an understanding, kindred spirit.
Polish Cinema is showing a new face, highlighting its more universal line of storytelling. We can see it in freshly produced pictures, such as Life Feels Good, Imagine and Lasting’ As a young actor attending international film festivals, how would you describe the audience’s reactions to this change? And what else would you like to see?
It is a very interesting direction. You can see how well received our movies were in 2013 and how many festivals have already included them, e.g. Montreal, Berlin, or even now in Dublin. I believe it is just the beginning. We might lack a directing personality that is not afraid of pushing it forward and embracing all new elements and themes that this trend can offer but we are definitely getting there. Also in terms of acting, Polish Cinema is very much rooted in a script which can focus on following a word-by-word structure, which definitely keeps us different, and it is great. However, maybe there should be just a bit more space for improvisation. You can see in American films that many directors give actors more freedom. Of course you don’t want to have it overdone across many scenes as often happens in such movies, but it might give us an opportunity to react to some situations more organically. Plus, we shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting as well as introducing new topics. Film is a limitless form of art and shouldn’t be confined or restricted by social taboos or difficult subjects such as homosexuality or transsexuality. I hope one day our cinema will be full of amazing scripts that give us a breath of fresh air, directed by young minds behind the camera, ready to steer us to new cinematic waters.